Just say no to #ThighGap
Dear Straight Talk: I’m happy to observe that today’s teens seem to see the ideal female form as more curvy and less pre-pubescent than in my youth. (Thank you, Beyoncé.) Then I learned of the latest baffling body-image obsession, the "thigh gap". Is a thigh gap really something for which young women strive, and do young men really find it attractive? — J.T., Redding, Calif.
Editor's Note: Back in the "innocent" days of 1999, the hit song "Everyone's Free to Wear Sunscreen" by Baz Luhrmann was released containing the lyrics, "Don't read beauty magazines, they just make you feel ugly." Little did he, or Mary Schmich, who penned the words, know that social media was going to be invented a few short years later.
Beauty magazines? Yes, still bad for the soul, but kid's stuff compared to the unedited, unvetted, unaccountable Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Tumblr content where the "thigh-gap" phenomenon was born, bred, and shall we say, fattened? No we shall not! F-word not allowed.
According to a 2011 Haifa University study, looking at social media doesn't just make you feel ugly — or fat. The more time you spend looking at it, the more likely you are to develop an eating disorder. Other studies are showing the same thing about exposure to social media. This is some serious "feel-ugly/feel-fat" conditioning going on — from over 100 pro-anorexic sites and insatiable, nonstop, ever-changing exposure to uber-thin photoshopped models, celebrities, and affected girls posting selfies of their thigh gaps. This monster never sleeps.
The June 2014 Advances in Public Health article, "Eating Behaviours and Body Weight Concerns among Adolescent Girls" says that in the U.S. "11% of female adolescents regularly vomit their food after having it and 13% of them reported some form of purging behaviours like use of laxatives or diuretics for body weight control due to excessive concern over body weight."
The report also cites a Minnesota study revealing that "56% of 9th grade females and 28% of 9th grade males reported disordered eating behaviours such as fasting, vomiting, or binge eating."
Wow. And so many boys, too. This is insane. You boys need to start writing us more!
I know my advice is usually wasted on the young (Mary Schmich said that, too), but your life will be so much better, on so many levels, if you turn social media off — or at least cut back A LOT. It really does make you feel ugly. AND it uses up all your time! You could be getting daily exercise with a friend in real time, learning to cook real food, and reading good literature, which is shown to improve self image, too. There was sooo much more time for all this before social media. And people felt sooo much better about themselves. Give it try, not for me, for yourself. —Lauren
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